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[1998-06-03-NJPW-Best of the Super Juniors] Koji Kanemoto vs Dr Wagner Jr

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I found the first 8-9 minutes of this match online, and I'd definitely recommend watching that before watching this. There is nothing groundbreaking there, but it serves to further emphasize how the match was laid out.

 

This is very different from juniors matches of the time, and I say that as someone who has become a big fan of New Japan juniors through this project, despite common criticisms regarding the matches being overly formulaic. This match defies that logic and has Wagner bringing the lucha matwork to New Japan, doing all sorts of holds that aren't common among others in the division. This match is also laid out in a very different way than usual. Wagner takes 95% of the offense. Kanemoto starts showing glimmers of hope in the last 10 minutes or so, and his teased comebacks get over big because he was on the receiving end of Wagner's onslaught for so long. He has a breakthrough in the past few minutes and starts showing some signs of life. I think the match would have been better if Wagner won, just because it was laid out like it was his to win. But even that worked in a way, because Kanemoto snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. This is my MOTY at this point.

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Wow. I have enjoyed 1998 and certain matches have been great but very little has blown me away. This match blew me away and was a junior epic that felt appropriate and satisfactory in every facet. Wagner gave a great performance here twisting and turning Kanemoto 10 ways to Sunday and amping up his arsenal to more knock out blows while getting progressively more desperate that he cant put Kanemoto away. I could see an argument that the Splash Mountain should have been the finish, but LIger and Otani rallying Kanemoto on the apron and the sympathy that is built on him makes it a great moment when he conquers Wagner and wins the tournament. This was super and honestly as of right now, I am not sure I have ever seen a junior match from Japan I liked better. (****3/4)

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An excellent match, but I don't think I found it quite as stirring as Loss or Chad did. Wagner delivered an amazing offensive performance, murdering Kanemoto in every way imaginable. And I enjoyed all the jockeying on the outside between Team Liger and Team Kanemoto/Ohtani. But Wagner was so dominant that it almost seemed out of scale when he missed a dive and Kanemoto beat him with a quick burst of moves. The crowd loved Koji's resilience, and his comeback teases were OK. But I don't know; this felt more like a really memorable performance from one guy than a true classic.

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LOL Bad Medicine. It was half a classic. Wagner did everything you could hope for on his end. Controlling the pace, telling the story and doing his best to carry an average opponent on this day. The 26m flew by with the Mexican dominating proceedings. Some funky Lucha matwork and he was strutting around like such a badass. Kanemoto was just hanging on in more ways than one. His execution was sloppy and move selection sometimes ill advised. But he was playing the role and the fans got behind the homeboy. I was willing on the Doc instead. He deserved to win the tournament so much it was ridiculous. Yet Koji put him away with a messed up Tiger Suplay for an anti-meritocratic outcome. This could've been great with a better native, or even Kanemoto when he was in his prime.

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I thought they should have taken it home about 5-7 minutes earlier. Wagner did way too much to not put Kanemoto away. Those Michinoku drivers should have been the end if not the splash mountain.

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New Japan can't even air the FUCKING FINALS in its entirety? Goddamn, fuck them. That said I'm with dawho on this--that false finish with Kanemoto getting his foot on the rope took me out of the match, and then the second Wagner Driver *and* super crucifix bomb not putting Koji away took me out of it further. At that point, it was firmly established that Wagner Could Not Beat Kanemoto even if he shot him with a bazooka, so the "will he or won't he come back?" suspense factor was totally gone. Kanemoto was winning and everything else was window-dressing. I get why this was so loved because the backlash against 2.9 wrestling hadn't really begun when this match took place, but this was way overindulgent and Wagner's dominance felt more like a political game rather than a way to build for a gutsy Kanemoto comeback, the climax of which came way too easily. Despite the heated crowd and a few hot near-falls this ended up being a colossal disappointment.

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An excellent match, but I don't think I found it quite as stirring as Loss or Chad did. Wagner delivered an amazing offensive performance, murdering Kanemoto in every way imaginable. And I enjoyed all the jockeying on the outside between Team Liger and Team Kanemoto/Ohtani. But Wagner was so dominant that it almost seemed out of scale when he missed a dive and Kanemoto beat him with a quick burst of moves. The crowd loved Koji's resilience, and his comeback teases were OK. But I don't know; this felt more like a really memorable performance from one guy than a true classic.

 

BINGO! My thoughts exactly. It was an amazing Dr. Wagner offensive performance like really one of the best one man offensive performances I have ever seen in my life, but not to win the match was a Falcons' level choke. However, the great thing about the Patriots comeback was how extended it was. Wagner really did not sell much of anything in this match. He was just a machine.

 

For those trying to find the match, you can find it in a Ditch, if you know what I mean ;) ;)

 

Koji Kanemoto vs Dr. Wagner Jr - NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 6/3/98

 

After Liger/Ohtani 2/7/97, the New Japan juniors landscape becomes terra incognita for me. Much like All Japan, the highs of the mid-90s are over and we get into the late 90s and the number of pimped matches becomes very small. To me this match reminds me of the Kawada/Kobashi 6/12/98 match in hype. Sort of the last gasp of the once mighty division. I agree with a lot of sentiments that I have been read about this match in regards to how different this feels from a New Japan Juniors match. It is not opening matwork leading to an amazing bomb throwing festival. It is a one man artillery decimating his opponent from the opening bell.

 

Dr. Wagner Jr came to play. He was doing what he wanted when he wanted in this match. He was taking Kanemoto down at will. He was schooling on the mat with all the tricked out Lucha submissions. He was beating Kanemoto at his own game, stand-up with ferocious chops. I was shocked that Wagner's offense was way tighter than Kanemoto's in this. The setup and execution of submissions was pitch perfection. Everything looked like it hurt and the way he was taking him down was fierce. You see Kanemoto go for the kicks after being shown up on the mat, but when he tries to go to the mat he rides high and ends up in headscissors. He has not takedown defense. He is getting lit up in standup. I thought he might have any opening when he gets a knee to his head. But Wagner shakes it off and lets out this weird primal bellow and just dominates him. He humiliates him with the Rocking Horse submission among other impressive submissions. Kanemoto is throwing in hope spots like his twisting senton or his moonsaults, but he keeps trying to double up everything, but he misses the second attempt. Wagner is just a machine. He shrugs off and just keeps asserting his dominance. There is one point where Kanemoto gets a spinwheel kick and desperately applies a figure-4 and Wagner just reverses instantaneously. Down the stretch Wagner just murders Kanemoto. TWO WAGNER DRIVERS! One in the middle of the ring then SPLASH MOUNTAIN! I think that was the first time I have seen someone hit Splash Mountain. I marked out, but no pinfall. Wagner misses a diving headbutt. You could just feel in this match because Wagner was kicking so much ass he was going to lose. It was just too lopsided. This gives Kanemoto the opening to hit a moonsault and a Tiger Suplex to win.

 

Amazing offensive performance from Wagner. There was literally never a dull moment in the match. It is all action. He works seamlessly from standup to ground. It never feels like an exhibition. Really kudos to him. I do think he hurt the match a lot by not selling any of Kanemoto's hope spots. By not selling and just steamrolling him, it really hurt the credibility of the finish. I thought Kanemoto was very average here. He was whiffing some of his kicks. He was not giving me that passion I need to get behind the comeback. I was really not invested in him pulling through. A Kobashi or Ohtani would have had me pumping my fists begging for the comeback. I just really had trouble buying the kickouts from second Wagner Driver and Splash Mountain. This was a Falcons' level choke without any of the drama and excitement of the Patriots comeback because Wagner was not selling it and Kanemoto was not inspiring. But this is highly recommended for Wagner's offense and the fact that it is a breezy almost 30 minute affair. ****1/4

 

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I viewed this match as Wagner throwing the entire history of lucha libre at Kanemoto, escalating all the way to the Splash Mountain, and Kanemoto showing the supremacy of Japanese heart and heroism. Wagner, more than anyone else, benefits from who he would become, because you look closely for the extra bits of swagger that he would show five or six years later, and if you look closely enough, you do see it. The majority of the match is a massive rudo beatdown with Wagner hitting him with everything his country would have to offer. I though the initial transition was uninteresting and some of the cutoffs were as well, but that the hope spot set ups and comeback did get more interesting in the stretch. The match is extremely effective for what it was meant to be (so long as I'm reading it right) and you can tell that from the crowd's reaction. It's hard to fault something for what it is in this case, especially given the setting. There were certain structural things I liked, such as the fight for the initial crucifix bomb or teasing the tiger suplex earlier to pay it off at the end.

 

Honestly, this felt like the wrestling version of a war between Mexico and Japan, where Mexico launched every weapon it had and Japan persevered and won the day. It felt a little like what Inoki always wanted from his big jingoistic matches, but Kanemoto was selfish and self-assured enough to make it work through selling and fighting from underneath.

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Lucha maestro Wagner comes to New Japan and twists Koji into knots while adapting well to the high impact juniors style. Great heel work. Kanemoto is great in the underdog babyface role as well. I can understand the finishing stretch criticisms but I think it was earned and put over Koji's resilience. 1998 low end MOTYC. ****1/4
 

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This may take the cake as the most overrated match of 1998, but it's still good enough to make a Top 100. Wagner Jr. utterly dominating Kanemoto was highly entertaining and saved the match from being your typical ridiculous junior affair. He also showed good sense on how to progress the match. I loved how he threw Kanemoto over the top rope like a piece of shit and then chucked a chair in his face. Unfortunately, the transitions and cut offs weren't quite up to snuff. Not much difference between this and joshi, honestly. Both guys were eager to just hit their moves. Thankfully, they remembered how to sell in the last 3rd which saved the finishing run from becoming a complete farce.

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